The Piano was one big success story in 1993. It was the winner of three Academy Awards (Best Screenplay, Actress and Supporting Actress) and the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes, as well as being the darling of critics and fans alike. This beautiful and haunting film has recently been digitally remastered and released on Blu-ray and it remains one sumptuous, visual pleasure.

This was the third feature film by director, Jane Campion (Bright Star) who also doubled as the film’s screenwriter. The story is set in New Zealand in 1850 when a rebellious Scottish woman named Ada McGrath – who had been mute since the age of six – is forced to move from her homeland with her illegitimate daughter (a young and convincing, Anna Paquin of True Blood fame). Ada is placed into an arranged marriage with a wealthy landowner named Alisdair Stewart (Sam Neill).

Ada may not speak in a literal sense but she is able to communicate in other ways. She uses sign language to talk to her daughter plus she writes notes and uses lots of non-verbal cues. Ada is also given a “voice” through her accomplished piano playing. Actress, Holly Hunter stars here and drives this film as the stubborn Ada. She also plays all of the piano pieces herself and was able to provide input into the sign language components as well.

When Ada and her daughter arrive in New Zealand, Alisdair forces them to abandon a crate housing the pair’s beloved piano. Instead it is sold to George Baines (Harvey Keitel), a brute and tattooed expatriate who has embraced the customs of the local, Maori tribe. George makes out that he wants to learn to play the instrument but instead uses the piano as a way to get Ada to engage in various erotic and sexual favours. Along the line these moments blossom into a romance between the two and when Alisdair discovers the indiscretions of his new wife, he seeks revenge.

The Piano is a dark, moody and atmospheric film that is well-suited to the Blu-ray medium. While no bonus features are included, this gothic, rich and poetic tale that shares a few things in common with a Bronte sister saga is almost faultless. The film is ultimately as intricate as a lace bodice, as mysterious as a stranger and as intense as a conflict-laden thriller. It gets at the heart of our most raw and primal emotions and despite a subtle telling it continues to resonate loud and true, even though it is decades since its release.


Originally published on 6 January 2015 at the following website:

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